Although I am proceeding steadily with preparing the next two chapter books for publication, in the last few months, I have begun again to pursue my first passion – poetry.
I have been writing and reading in this area a great deal. I’ve read anthologies and journals, as well as books by Mary Oliver, Michelle Mathees and Galway Kinnell. I read through Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook twice, which is full of inspiration, and I am halfway through Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled, which is more comprehensive. Both are marvelous books for opening up the nuances of what it means to read and write poetry, although the authors come at it from decidedly different perspectives. Fry, an English actor and accomplished author, is much more of a traditionalist when it comes to meter. And his arguments for form in poetry, though perhaps not altogether in current “fashion,” are hard to ignore. That’s not to say that Oliver advocates against form, but it’s clear that she is much more accepting of free verse.
Although I’ve experimented recently with syllabic verse, Fry has now introduced me to the idea of accentual verse, originating from Old English poetry, that focuses on the number of accents only (and does not concern itself with the number of unaccented syllables).
I’m also a big fan of slant rhyme in poems, especially when both words do not come at the end of lines and when not overdone. For me, it imparts just that right level of musicality without being downright chant-like. Fry encourages poets to “not draw attention” to the rhyme.
I fear that some modern poets are losing the rhythm that is so much a part of good poetry. In some ways, we have become better image crafters, but that cannot be all a poem is. This point, perhaps, bears an entire blog post by itself.
For my own poetry work, I have been rather productive, creating and revising almost every day. All of which brings me immense pleasure. I have said often that writing creatively is one of my greatest joys. I marvel that I don’t always find the time for it.
Mary Oliver wrote in A Poetry Handbook that she routinely revises her poems 41 times each! I have found this illuminating and encouraging, although I’m still probably only revising around five times a piece. Like most art, the complexity that makes a piece so interesting comes through in its layers. It is through revision that we create these layers, these levels, of meaning, nuance and imagery.